The Masked Traitor: The Mysterious Michael Flynn

Who is Flynn working for? (Hint: Not the United States.) And why does Trump protect him?

THE MIKE FLYNN SAGA is a confused and ugly mess, not unlike his face. It would require a Power Broker-sized book to lay it all out in granular detail, but even in quarantine, we don’t have Robert A. Caro kinds of time. So for now, let’s confine ourselves to three key takeaways:

Takeaway #1
During Flynn’s short association with Donald John Trump, he had so many conflicts of interest that it’s almost impossible to determine where his true allegiance lay. Was he ultimately serving Putin? Erdoğan? The Saudis? The Qataris? Transnational organized crime? The personal interests of the President-Elect? Fuck if I know.

Takeaway #2
As Marcy Wheeler and others have pointed out, the list of officials who requested to be informed of Flynn’s identity in his calls with Sergei Kislyak—who asked that he be “unmasked”—suggests that the concerns about Flynn pre-date his late 2016 contact with the multi-chinned Russian ambassador:

In other words, there’s more to this than garden-variety Russian “collusion.” How much more? Again: fuck if I know.

Takeaway #3
Donald John Trump has, time and time again, stuck his neck out for Mike Flynn—showing him the kind of unconditional support he usually reserves for Vladimir Putin. Consider: As his cronies have taken the fall, Trump has gallantly abandoned them. Roger Stone, Michael Cohen, and Paul Manafort have all known, been friendly with, and worked for Trump for decades, only to be given some version of the “coffee boy” treatment by their loyalty-demanding-but-not-showing boss. Flynn has only been in Trump’s orbit since February of 2016—he’s a recent addition, cosier with Devin Nunes than Trump—and yet Trump has bent over backwards to protect him. Trump tweeted nice things when Flynn resigned, and practically begged then-FBI Director James Comey to give his guy a pass. “I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go,” Trump pleaded, “to letting Flynn go. He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go.” The fishy legal maneuver Attorney General Bill Barr pulled last week to have the Justice Department drop the charges against Flynn looks an awful lot like it was done at Trump’s behest.

Put those three takeaways into the supercomputer, and this is what the machine spits out: They are in cahoots. If we know who Flynn is working for, we know who Trump is working for.

Because—and at the risk of stating the obvious—Trump is not protecting Mike Flynn because he likes the guy. If “The Donald” has any actual friends, Flynn ain’t one of them. No, he’s protecting his former national security advisor to protect himself—or, possibly, to safeguard the entire criminal enterprise that supports him. The disgraced lieutenant general may well prove to be the linchpin to the entire conspiracy.

Of MICE and Men

“MICE” is the acronym for the four ways enemy operatives entice Americans to betray their country: Money, Ideology, Compromise, Ego. Stunningly, Flynn appears to have left himself vulnerable to all four.

Money
Dude got his beak wet all over. In 2015, Mike Flynn was paid the princely sum of 3.3 million rubles ($45,000!) to speak at RT’s anniversary conference in Moscow; he also had the honor of sitting right next to Vladimir Putin at the dinner, at the same table with Jill Stein! The Russians picked up the expenses for him and his namesake son to make the trek. (That Flynn the Younger was also in Moscow for that function is an under-reported, but possibly critical, detail). His consulting firm, Flynn Intel, also took in a whopping $11,250 from the American arm of Kaspersky Lab, and the same amount from other concerns with Russian ties—and he failed to report this on his financial statements.

Flynn registered as a foreign agent retroactively because of work he was doing on behalf of the Turkish dictator Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. His firm collected half a million bucks for this work, which, according to former CIA Director James Woolsey, including concocting a plot to kidnap and exfiltrate a Turkish dissident living in Pennsylvania.

Flynn also collected five thousand dollars—the very same amount Wayne Campbell received in Wayne’s World that allowed him to buy the special guitar—to consult about a joint US-Russian project to build 40 nuclear reactors across the Middle East. This is a shady af venture that involves longtime Trump crony Tom Barrack and the president’s son-in-law and jack-of-no-trades, Jared “Boy Plunder” Kushner. Five grand, though.

Add it all up, and it isn’t even a recently-unfrozen Dr. Evil demanding one million dollars. Not only will Flynn sell out his country, but he’ll do it on the cheap. If you’re Russia, apparently, he’ll do your bidding for five figures and a few Applebee’s gift cards. Mike Flynn is the Kohl’s of traitors.

Ideology
Flynn “retired” as Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency because, in short, he suffered from “I Alone Can Fix It” syndrome. He had rigid, inflexible notions about geopolitics that made sense only to him, and he really disliked pushback. His casual relationship to the truth led his subordinates to coin the phrase “Flynn facts,” which are of a piece with what Kellyanne Conway would later call “alternative facts.” In a leaked email, Colin Powell wrote that he heard Flynn was “abusive with staff, didn't listen, worked against policy, bad management, etc.” This amounts to an ideology, insofar as it can be exploited.

Compromise
The American foreign policy scholar Stefan Halper, a member of the Nixon, Ford, and Reagan administrations who now teaches at Cambridge University, saw Flynn at an intelligence conference in London in February 2014. Halper—who worked for decades with both the CIA and MI6—became so concerned about Flynn’s relationship with a comely Russian national that he notified American authorities. To Halper, it looked alarmingly like Flynn was being compromised by Russian intelligence. Said Russian national, the academic Svetlana Lokhova, a Russian-born British citizen living in Cambridge, flatly denies being a Russian spy (in much the same way Mariia Butina does, but still), and went so far as to sue Halper and various news organizations—unsuccessfully—for libel, for insinuating that she might be. So let me clearly state that I am not accusing Lokhova of being a spy, an asset, an operative, etc., nor am I suggesting that she was Flynn’s lover—there’s no evidence of that that I’m aware of—or even that she cooed sweet little lies in his ear, such as “You are handsome” or “You look like George Clooney” or “The fact that your face looks like it was hewn of rough stone is not unattractive, I swear.” The point is, when he saw smoke, the intelligence expert Halper was so convinced there was fire that he called the fire department. (That Lokhova’s Twitter feed is a cesspool of MAGA crap, it should be noted, doesn’t much help her defense.)

Ego
Flynn thinks he knows more than everybody else about geopolitics. And he’s butt-hurt from being bounced from government by Obama. In Mike Flynn’s world, Mike Flynn is a hero. This is a narrative pushed by Russian bots on Twitter, who can’t get enough of the guy.

So if you’re working for the GRU—which headquarters, incidentally, Flynn was the first American to ever visit—you look at this guy and lick your chops. If you’re GRU, you’re not thinking, “Can we get this guy?” but rather, “Which avenue should we try first?” To be clear: I’m not saying that Russian intelligence got to him, but mon dieu was Flynn vulnerable.

Masking Tape

One Kremlin spymaster who had extensive contact with Flynn in 2016 was Sergei Kislyak, then the Russian ambassador to the United States. It was lying to investigators about conversations he had with Kislyak that got Flynn in trouble with the FBI; on 1 December 2017, he pleaded guilty of making false statements regarding those conversations. (For the MAGA slow learners: “pleading guilty” means he was convicted of a crime, which makes him a felon, because—wait for it—making false statements is a felony.)

And that brings us to the unmasking “scandal.” Despite what the seditious little fuck Ed Snowden would like us to believe, the US government does not spy on its own citizens willy-nilly:

To the contrary, when Americans turn up in calls with foreign nationals—you know, folks like Sergei Kislyak—the NSA “masks” the transcripts, so no one reading them knows which US citizen is on the other end of the horn. Sometimes the identity is obvious, however, as when the foreign national says something like, “How are you today, Devin?” Regardless, the name of the US citizen is not “unmasked” unless it absolutely has to be, and a lot of people have to sign off for that to happen. Because Flynn was on the Trump Transition Team, and because he was in line to become the freakin’ national security advisor, it was deemed, rightly, a matter of national security that President Obama, Vice President Biden, and members of their national security team knew which way the wind was blowing. (Biden, incidentally, was personally warned by former CIA chief Woolsey about Flynn’s participation in “a covert step in the dead of night to whisk this [Turkish dissident living in Pennsylvania] away.”)

Now: let’s say you’re in a position of great authority, and you find out that Mike Flynn has been freelancing in illicit ways with any number of foreign powers, some hostile, and playing both sides. If you’re Joe Biden, you want him investigated and eighty-sixed from government. If you’re Donald John Trump, you make him your national security adviser. That’s the difference between the two candidates.

The “Obamagate” “scandal,” which kook-right conspiracy theory Trump has yet to successfully articulate, boils down to this: Obama wanted to investigate the traitor doing crimes on Trump’s behalf.

One last point: When Flynn pleaded guilty of lying to the FBI, the understanding was that this was a plea bargain—he would admit his guilt of a relatively minor offense, and the feds would not hit him with the harder stuff. It was also reported that one of Flynn’s conditions was that his son and namesake, Michael Flynn, Jr., would not be charged. Per RUMINT, the elder Flynn had broken down in tears pleading for the G-men to leave his poor son alone. Was this a father doing right by his child? Or a traitor covering for another traitor? We haven’t heard much about Flynn fils. I suspect this is about to change.

In the long run, it may be a good thing that Flynn has botched his plea agreement. This gives us another shot at finding out what he knows, and, hopefully, charging him with more serious crimes. No less an authority than Judge Sullivan, remember, said to Flynn, “You sold out your country,” and even mentioned the “t-word.”

The more sunlight we have on this traitor, the better. As I said up front: if we know who Flynn is working for, we know who Trump is working for.

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Photo credit: Army Lieutenant General Michael Flynn speaks at the Defense Intelligence Agency change of directorship at Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling, July 24, 2012. Army Lieutenant General Ronald Burgess Jr. turned over directorship of DIA to LtGen Flynn after serving in the position since 2009. DoD photo by Erin A. Kirk-Cuomo (Released)